4
$\begingroup$

I'm writing a novel where there is a drowned body in an inland lake. The idea is that she was drowned after a fight in a container containing sea water for smuggling a recently extinct (in the novel, supposedly extinct) or a rare marine animal, and there was also some species of alga in her lungs. Hence, I'm looking for two species from the same ocean or sea (endemic or not), where some info on the genome is known. The best thing (or you tell me if it makes sense at all) I could come up with so far is the Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) and brown alga of some species which I think is mostly found in the North Atlantic. Very grateful for any info on the genome (no details necessary, just whether the DNA has been sequenced and whether it would be possibly to identify by a tissue sample), chromosome number and other info on the great auk and some Phaeophyceae alga or any other input for a fitting pair of species. My novel is set in 1994, and they identify the species by forensic PCR methods, no need for a specific match, but by a shred of skin or so I need two marine species identified (not with 100% certainty, good odds or a near-match is enough) by some forensic way, can be anything really, one of them small enough to be in the water in the lungs of a drowned body. Or a genus could be enough, the plot element is just that she drowned in a container used to transport an animal. Sorry if it's inappropriate to ask this here, it's not a scientific question I know, but I trust I get the highest quality input here.

Actually, the alga is of secondary priority, if someone could point out a recently extinct marine animal which can be matched by its DNA, or by a tissue sample using some other method, I can even scratch the alga, but it would be a nice cherry on top.

$\endgroup$

1 Answer 1

4
$\begingroup$

Yes, at least some of the genome has been sequenced for the Great Auk (Pinguinis impennis): Taxonomy browser @ NIH (click on the 45 next to the Genomic Sequences title). There appear to be 45 different genomes published. All of them are mitochondrial genomes, which are relatively easy to reconstruct, as well as super abundant in any tissue. They can be used to identify samples to the species level.

I don't know of any specific algae that might match, as these tend to be very widespread (as one might expect for a marine species that is distributed by currents). You might be able to concoct one fresh-water one that comes from some remote island where the Auks are found. Perhaps a land-bound plant pollen or spore (moss, fern) in the lungs instead if she has been collecting these animals from somewhere? It doesn't have to be real after all, just believable (for example Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code theories etc.)!

$\endgroup$
9
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You might find this Telegraph book review fun (best book review I ever read): Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 14:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse I think I have seen that before, or perhaps a similar one about another author, still gets a laugh out of me. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ Hey, thanks a lot for the input! I guess the Auk will do then with your confirmation that it can be positively identified by the mDNA -- But, @anongoodnurse, just asking out of curiosity (and thanks for the funny review, or whatever it is, I assume I'm missing out on something, his constantly referring to himself as renowned I assume); is it that (a) this part of the plot sounds so far-out it reminds you of Dan Brown or (b) my grammar or style reminds you of Dan Brown or (c), heaven forbid, both? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ It will be much more far-out pulp stuff than Dan Brown, but with a tiny difference: the book won't take itself seriously. Or so I hope. So heaven forbid anybody associate my grammar or style with Dan Brown, that was my point, although I'm writing the first version in German, so I'm off the hook for the time being. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ @bob1, however, has this been sequenced in 1994? I understand PCR was fairly new then so you'd need a huge sample? Could they run as many cycles as they do today? Also, the genome is only 16k base pairs and 10k are identical, is that correct? Sounds like nothing, I thought humans have several billions and the onion (I heard) has much more...? But most of it is junk anyway, or so they claim? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 2:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .